“Our imagination is stretched to the utmost, not, as in fiction, to imagine things which are not really there, but just to comprehend those which are there.” – Richard Feynman

James Gleick’s biography begins by correcting some of the myths about Feynman. Feynman created some of them himself, of course. Overall, the book is yet another tribute. Gleick fills in the narrative that Feynman left out of the two popularizations of his life, Surely You’re Joking Mr. Feynman and What Do You Care What Other People Think?


Underlying and beyond the stories Gleick explains the physics, as best as can be done, in colloquial English. Motivated, I browsed the stacks at the Austin Public Library and checked out Quantum Field Theory Demystified by David McMahon and Understanding Quantum Mechanics by Roland Omnès. Both were approximately the kind of book a physics major would read over the summer before the sophomore year. Though I renewed the check-out, after five weeks, I still did not get much, but gleaned what I could. Relevant here is the fact that just as the Pythagorean Theorem can be shown synthetically and analytically, the truths in quantum mechanics can be expressed with three different methods: wave equations, statistical equations, and Feynman path integrals. Gleick devotes considerable effort to explaining Feynman’s work, given that the intended audience is people who like physics, but really do not understand it.

India Two Point Oh

Both Aristotle and William Graham Sumner pointed out that laws are only expressions of tradition. To cite the terminology of Thomas Kuhn, only a paradigm shift can change a folkway. A hundred years ago, Bhagat Singh Thind (a veteran of the U.S. Army in World War I) was denied citizenship on racial grounds: though admittedly a speaker of an “Aryan” language, the U.S. Supreme Court found that he was “Asian” and therefore not qualified to become a citizen, despite his honorable service in the armed forces. Almost at that very moment, the self-taught Srinivasa Ramanujan was astounding the mathematics faculty at Cambridge.

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Indian English: Totally Legend Like Anything

The numbers speak. 12. 5 crore Indians use English, whereas only half as many in the UK do the same. When the USA invaded Iraq, I distrusted the American news media and sought international coverage. India’s English language newspaper websites provided some objectivity. One of them also delivered this: “Bush Ploy Foxes Pundits.” I could put the foxes in a bush, but I knew that “he pundits” is incorrect: pundit is a noun. So, I reparsed the sentence.

We think that our vernacular is the standard, but Jews who speak Yiddish have an old joke: “What is the difference between a language and dialect? Dialects do not have armies.” The so-called standard language is only the local dialect of the capital city. See, for example, The King’s English by Henry Watson Fowler and Francis George Fowler (Oxford: Clarendon Press , 1906), which was published at the height of the British empire. But Rudyard Kipling was the first English language writer to be honored with the Nobel Prize in Literature (1907) and he was born in Mumbai.  (Ironically, the Fowlers complained that Kipling introduced Americanisms into his prose.)

Now, India has an army (with nuclear weapons) and …

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